This is the year!
When the balloons dropped on NYE, my first thought was, “This is the year!” I have looked forward to this year for many years. My husband and I are pursuing a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in March! After doing a group day hike on the AT when I was 17, I heard about the concept of “thru-hiking” from my hiking guide. The thought of being on the 2,200 mile trail for 6 months was instantly appealing to me.
The following year, I went to college and signed up for a minor in Outdoor Adventure Leadership. As part of the program, we did several short trips and one mega trip- a 21 day technical canyoneering backpacking trip in Southeast Utah. My backpacking resume also includes trips in Montana, Colorado, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Oregon, Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Via Alpina in Germany, and even some backpacking in the cloud forests of Honduras. This trip is different… special… longer! Although the trail will pass through many towns, we will be carrying most of what we need to survive on our backs at all times. We will resupply every 4-7 days for food, as we will likely have a nearly insatiable hunger.
How do we prepare for a hike of this magnitude? In a way, we have been training for years. We are both physically active and maintain healthy body weights. We fuel with nutritious foods and get outdoors as much as possible. We camp in rain, snow, or sunshine, depending on what God sends us. Acute preparations include much of the same 1) physical training 2) nutrition 3) getting comfy in all of the elements.
- Physical training- Largely, we are trying to maintain good physical fitness through cardio and strength training. We have cut back on running to 1-2 days per week to conserve calories. Claudia is doing a short spin class 1-2 days per week and 2 days of strength training, which includes one kettle bell routine and 1 day of weights in the gym. The stair stepper has replaced running/elliptical to strengthen leg muscles. Andrew is focusing on putting on weight, doing strength training 3-4 days per week. Physical training also includes hiking with and without our packs in the outdoors.
- Nutrition- Professionally, we both work in the field of nutrition. This will be a recurrent theme in our blog because of its importance in our overall success. In preparation for our departure, we are focused on exceeding our caloric needs in order to gain a few pounds before leaving.
- Comfort- We are learning to be comfy in the elements by figuring out what our needs are in different situations, and trying out different clothing and sleep system combinations. We are replacing some of our worn-out gear with newer, lighter, warmer items that are on the market. Andrew will share more details about this soon.
Last weekend, we did our first “shake-down” hike of the season. We packed up our packs with what we think we’ll want
on the AT and headed out into the chilly wilderness of the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. We hiked 5 miles at Pedestal Rocks and King’s Bluff with loaded packs. Our campsite was set on Haw Creek, which was flowing nicely with all of the recent rain. The temperature dropped to less than 20 degrees that night but we stayed fairly warm with our new gear. Andrew has a new down sleeping bag and Claudia, a new down coat.
The following morning we met up with the Ozark Society hiking club, led by Farrel Couch. Every hike with him is laced with his 2 passions- history and geology. Our group hiked to Buzzard’s Roost and bush wacked to a hidden natural bridge. From there, we headed over to Pam’s Grotto and checked out the waterfall. At the end of the weekend, we had gained confidence and assurance that our recent purchases were worthwhile additions. Our packs felt good and if we could start sooner, we would! We made a list of things to change and/or purchase based on what we learned. By March, we’ll be ready!
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